In Our Midst

In Our Midst.jpg

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

This has been a favorite passage for a long time. When our oldest son was overseas, I imagined him lying in his bed in the middle of a war-torn country surrounded by enemies who wanted to harm him. What was he thinking? Did he feel alone? Was he every fearful? What had he seen? Just out of high school, barely entering adulthood and seeing things no one should ever encounter. I would pray this verse over him. I asked the Lord to let His Presence be so thick that he could feel Him tangibly in the sandy cot where he rested. Isolation and loneliness are terrible feelings. To feel abandoned or unloved maybe even forgotten causes a person to feel small, insignificant and insecure. You are far from that today my friend. The Lord YOUR GOD is in your midst. Whether choosing to identify Him as God or even YOUR God doesn’t change His Love and desire for you. He is still offering new mercy each morning. The Lord pursues us with unfailing love and goodness that belongs to us exclusively. He is mighty to save and willing to do so on a moment’s notice. He rejoices over you with gladness as a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost. He celebrates each return as the father embraces the prodigal son. He longs to quiet you with perfect peace and complete confidence in the hope that is offered. God wants you to know that you are His Child and He loves you. It doesn’t even matter if you reject Him – His Love for you and me is strong and steadfast to the very end. He is singing over you today. Can you hear Him? It is a song of love, adoration, grace, forgiveness, healing and deliverance! He is for you never against you. What might happen if for but a moment one glorious second one might witness the Presence of the Living God in our midst and know His Intentions? It would be life changing.

In Genesis 3, God knew Adam and Eve had made a terrible mistake. He knew that sin had been introduced yet still in the “cool of the day”, the Lord God came to them. He wasn’t setting them up for failure but saving them from eternal damnation. How so? If Adam or Eve had taken from the Tree of Life in their sinful condition, they would never have experienced deliverance and lived a tortured existence forever without any possible salvation. In Exodus 25, God again invites people to dwell in His Midst. God loves you. He loves me. Nothing we can ever do will ever separate us from the Love of God. It is through Jesus Christ that we can dwell in His Presence each day and live in His Midst.

Joel 2:26-28 (ESV) “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

I remember rocking my children as babies and singing over them. Praying for them. Dreaming about them. I also remember as those helpless infants turned into willful teenagers. Challenging times for most parents trying to mold and shape the world changers and history makers of tomorrow. Yet I didn’t stop loving them, providing for them, caring for them in the midst of rebellion. There were times of discipline and heartache that were endured together but my love for them never changed because they did not meet my expectation. I love my kids. I would do anything for my children. How much more God loves us! Not only does God love us but pours out His Spirit on us. The Holy Spirit identifies us as His Children. He guides us and teaches us about the Lord and His Love for us. He also allows us to experience the Presence of God as He dwells within our midst.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego loved God and served Him. God loved them. It did not exempt them from being thrown into a fiery furnace. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked in, there were for people in the fire. God is with us. He never leaves us. He lives in the midst of us. We must only look for Him and He is there.

Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God loves you. He wants to live in the midst of your life. He pursues you each day and provides opportunities to respond to His Promises. It is up to us to desire the Presence of God enough to enter in. Jesus ripped the veil that separated us from God in the Temple with the purpose that through salvation all mankind would have the privilege of living in the Presence of God every day. To dwell with Him. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. It was God’s Plan all along. We enter in through salvation and repentance. As we turn back to Him – He floods our life with His Glory. We are the children of God who He longs for and desires more than anything. We comprise the Kingdom. He doesn’t want gold, riches, or anything else because the Lord owns it all and lends it to us! Won’t you respond to His Calling today? The gentle nudging and urging to come just a little bit closer. He loves you! The Lord is fighting for you. He is your Provider and Protector. You may never know all the benefits and blessings around you if you do not identify His Presence in your midst today. Once you do, you will absolutely be blown away by His Love, Goodness, Grace and Kindness. He is a Good Father who wants to live with you!

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United We Stand

United We Stand

Romans 12:4-5 (ESV) For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

I loved scrolling through all the social media feeds to see red, white and blue. The celebration of the 4th of July with family and friends. Firework displays lit up the story line of each outlet. Though this was a quiet day for us – we did eat with some of our kids and the littlest firecracker – our sweet grandson. Facetiming with other family members who are out of town. We exercised our right to “Netflix and chill” as some might say which is totally out of character for me but a welcome respite for the midweek holiday.

Social media would give the illusion of unity yesterday as everyone seemed to be doing the exact same thing in America. The same feeds usually filled with political opinions and tirades were instead filled with images of family and food all in red, white and blue. Unity paints a beautiful picture. I believe it warms the heart of God when people put aside their differences sliding the soapbox under the bed to celebrate life together. Yes, I know that important causes exists and there are some things really wrong with the world. I am not delusional enough to think that ignoring them will fix them. However, I do believe that unless we come together nothing will ever change.

In Romans 12, it reminds us that we are one body with many members. It is clear that not everyone serves the same function yet still vitally important to proper operation. We are one body in Christ. Individually we are still corporately responsible for each other. The binding factor is love. Not our ability to love each other unconditionally and without fail but God’s Love demonstrated in His Son – Jesus Christ. In John 12, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The common factor in Christianity is Jesus Christ. He has called for all people to come to Him. Also in Romans 12, it begins by describing our life as a “living sacrifice” which is “holy and acceptable to God” and considered spiritual worship. It means not conforming to the social circles of the world but allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our mind into the fully formed and functional Body of Jesus Christ. This is the Will of God that is good, acceptable and perfect.

Psalm 133 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

God loves unity. He blesses such a life offering. Unity requires giving up ourselves in order to become one. The completion of Christ is established in the unity and oneness of His People. He is not coming for many brides but one bride. The Bride of Christ must be complete. The Spirit and the Bride (singular) say, “Come.” I believe that if the church could tap into the real potential of unity rather than calling for diversity and doctrine – it might just experience revival. We focus on the wrong thing. The great commission of Jesus Christ was to love and be loved as one – to come together into completeness. The Lord commands His Blessing on unity and life forevermore.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The individuality of churches and institution set forth by doctrine may be the very thing limiting revival today. The religious world is not demonstrating the relationship of Kingdom. Until we grow in perfect unity, the Bride of Christ may resemble the Bride of Frankenstein. The human soul is not clothed in race, color, gender or any other physical quality. The Lord is looking at our heart and soul. I know no coroner or medical examiner that can determine any of the physical characteristics of a person by just looking at the heart. Yet God is most interested in our heart and soul. Who we love? How we love? These are the fulfillment of the Great Commission set forth by Jesus Christ. Leading someone to Jesus is not the same as loving them like Jesus.

The basics of unity are one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father of all. That’s it. No matter how we paint it, carpet it, light it up, or make it loud – this is the basis of the Body of Christ known as the church. Religion creates diversity. Relationship says, “Whosoever will come” and lets figure this out together. It is simple. It is real. It has feelings but lives in a commitment called love. Not worldly affection or temporary lust but rather love that is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” It is a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, (and) endures all things. Love (that) never ends.” To immerse ourselves so completely in the Love of Christ that loving others is no longer optional but the very condition that unites us.

What can I do to unite the church?

The character of Christians must be changed, transformed, and renewed by God’s Love. Repentance, true repentance, is a turning from our way of living to totally exist in the shadow and example of Jesus Christ. I cannot love like Christ until He is the One who I am following and imitating. People are not easy to love but it is each personality that comprises the Kingdom. I cannot make them love me. But I can allow God and His Spirit to make me more lovable. The Fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” This is the kind of spiritual food that feeds hungry souls and waters thirsty hearts. It is to put “me” aside and allow Christ to flow through me. Religion allows us to maintain pride and position. However, to fully assume our place in the Body of Christ – we must become like Paul who declared himself to be “a prisoner of the Lord.” We must carefully put our mind, will and emotions under the careful guard of the Holy Spirit at all times. We must daily crucify any rebellious thought in contention with Christ and put it in the grave to die. We must remain prostrate in a posture of prayer and humility before the Lord daily and even on some days moment by moment. We must walk by faith and not by sight. Unity blesses God’s Heart and I believe if we get it right – it will bless us, too as united we stand.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

One.

one

Matthew 18:18-20 (ESV)  “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Just two or three people who agree on earth can release Heaven. It only takes two people to open the window of the Kingdom. I don’t know whether to celebrate this promise or shake my head in shame. Is the limitation in our life simply because we cannot agree, get along and live in harmony? If harmony is a precious anointing, it should be a daily pursuit by God’s Children who desire His Blessing. To not just tolerate the presence of others but fully embrace one another with love, grace, generosity, and compassion.

Jesus plainly states, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” There is no mixed message or need for extensive commentary. It’s simple. If two or three agree and come together in Jesus Name – whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Jesus is Resurrection Power and Life. When His Spirit is present – freedom is released. Healing dispensed. Change unleashed. Revival begins. Too often we look for it in the masses but I believe if just two or three would gather in His Name…not the name of a church, or doctrine, or religion, or mission even that the Lord would show up and true revival would begin. The unexplainable would happen. The impossible would result in miracles. The Body of Christ would come to life again.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In order to walk in unity and experience the fullness of blessing found in such a choice means giving up our way, the lie of the enemy and normal existence. We must fully embrace the characteristics of Jesus Christ including unfailing love, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and work diligently to maintain it. Crucifying our flesh is a painstaking and painful process. No death is ever pleasant but it is rewarding to give up the permissible to fully embody the benefits given to us by Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103)

Our imminent failure comes from ignorance. That’s right – it is a lack of knowledge that causes people to perish. It is a lack of direction that causes delays, detours and distractions that lead to doubt, discouragement and even disappointment. The hope found in Jesus Christ never leads to disappointment. God’s Word cannot return to Him void. What God has ordained for our life will come to pass. We just have to seek an abiding relationship in Jesus Christ and allow His Spirit to produce the kind of fruit that feeds our soul and starves our flesh. Pride must die in order for faith to flourish. There is no other way.

What if every believer became “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? What a lofty pursuit? To step up from the natural and begin to believe that you can live supernaturally. It doesn’t matter what man thinks about you if you are walking in the Shadow of God. To fully embody and embrace Jesus Christ allows us to live a new life and become a new creation. Christians who compare themselves to anyone but Christ are out of order. My calling and your calling are individual. God doesn’t have favorites because we are all His Favored Children. Our feelings of inferiority and insignificance are just the enemies lies. We can live in a lie but the Truth will always set us free.

Psalm 133 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Why do you go to church? Is it a social event? Is it expected of you? Do you get encouraged by the pastor’s message? Does it make you feel good? I believe that everyone goes to church looking for hope. This world is a dark place full of heartbreak and tragedy. Love is cold. Sin is rampant. Evil seems to be triumphing over good. Do you need a miracle in your life today? Are you facing the impossible? Are you tired of just enough and desire more than enough? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Is the Word living, breathing and changing your life? It can. It will. It requires unity in the Body of Christ. How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity. It is like precious oil. The anointing of Heaven will meet us in our gatherings from small groups, to church services to civic center conferences if we strive to do just one thing. Agree.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

To become one means giving up my way to fully accept the Way. Jesus has given us His Spirit to lead, guide and direct us. While doing so the Spirit takes the Word working it into our heart to uproot every lie that the enemy has told us. The Spirit produces the character needed to agree by feeding our soul good fruit so it will prosper. It is human nature to focus on our differences but the Lord is challenging His Church to focus on our common bond. To become One Body filled with One Spirit. We are all called to one hope. His Name is Jesus Christ. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. One. When two or three agree the One who meets every need and will do exceedingly abundantly more than we think or ask is in our midst. He is the Resurrection that calls forth dead dreams to life. He is Life to our body, mind, spirit and soul. We must become one. The church united becomes the unstoppable Light that drives out darkness in their homes, workplaces, community and even the world. I want to be part of “that” church.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Together in Common

Together in Common

Acts 2:44 (NIV) All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Last night was Halloween, we live in a neighborhood that is quite popular with families and trick-or-treaters. Since our children are mostly grown, no one was dressing up instead choosing to decorate pumpkins and pass our candy to the army of little superheroes, monsters and the like. The first text message came from my oldest just before lunch to let me know that she had invited a friend over to be the candy police. No problem. As the day went on a text message here and a call there turned into a pop-up party at our house. I was cooking dinner as everyone began to arrive and hungry children filled my kitchen. By the time the parents had gathered, my supplies had run out so we ordered a pizza. The girls greeted the treat seekers while older siblings accompanied the younger ones around the neighborhood. There was food, laughter, and fellowship and as I fell into my bed thoroughly exhausted from the day – I couldn’t help but smile. This is community. This is what God wanted and He was happy. Even on a day heavily debated by many Christians – good had overcome evil.

This is not to debate the participation of Christians in the fall season festivities. God looks at our heart and judges us accordingly with His Love and Immeasurable Grace. The gathering of believers in our home was not about celebrating the darkness or any sort of evil. In fact, it was about coming together as a community. That’s right a community. God loves community. He loves fellowship. A community may be the social group in which we operate, the local of our residence, and a shared government. It can also be an occupational group. The “ecclesiastical” definition of community is a group who shares common interest. Our common bond is Jesus Christ. He brings us together and reconciles us to Himself so that we can identify with each other.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The group who gathered in our home last night all attend church together. Sitting on the front porch, the mamas helped me with a tutu for homecoming week sprung on me by my teen who was out in the neighborhood with the others. Everyone talking, laughing and commenting on the princesses and ninjas on our doorstep. As the night progress and people cleared the streets, we moved inside out of the cold. Our home is not an open floor plan so I often hesitate to invite people over because it doesn’t seem to flow. By the end of the night, there were about a dozen people with an oversized dog all together and it seemed to work out just fine. Laughter filled the air. Everyone enjoying one another – I just cannot help but think the Lord is showing me the value and worth of putting aside our insecurities about where we live, what we have to offer and our opinions on certain subjects long enough to do community. To be a community. To share life in Christ together. Maybe this would end dumb arguments and stupid separation caused by misunderstandings and isolation – we would know each other’s heart and the love to be found there. Did you notice that in the coming together of believers that “the Lord added to their number daily who were being saved”? I wonder if the community called church has lost its ability to come together and have fun. Have we lost the concept of the “more the merrier”? What if we decided to come together and be one? Imagine the possibilities?

In verse 47, there are two key words – together and common. Together means in one gathering, a company, mass, place or body, union and in relationship. Relationship pleases God. It is the whole reason He sent His Son, Jesus to die for us so that our relationship with Him could return to right standing. The Love of God invested in us pays a dividend when it is released from us. It is the harvest that blesses the Kingdom and our Father. The word in “common” has meaning too. The division of believers is a difference never set forth by God. The common bond is Jesus Christ. We are to reconcile our life to Him which incorporates and infuses a love that binds and never restricts. Common means belonging equally to, shared a like by, joint, united, widespread and frequent occurrence. Together in common is the community facilitated by the Love of God through Jesus Christ that should be the practice of the modern day church according to the Word of God it will produce the salvation in many and result in an expansion of the church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Let us consider…think carefully about as to make a decision, contemplate and reflect. The church of Jesus Christ wants to build the Kingdom. I think we lose our focus on how to do that by trying to perfect the people rather than concentrating on loving each other. Community in Christ is all about Jesus. Jesus. That’s all. As we come together to encourage each other and build each other up – His Spirit moves in us. Conviction and conversion by His Spirit is way more effective than our personal opinion or religion. I am not entirely convinced any of us have it all right but Jesus is my righteousness. Yoked to Him, I can give myself to relationship and community freely because He is my expectation.

Before you post on social media, think about this. Is it kind, necessary and true? Does it bring together or tear apart? Before you hit send on that text, is it kind, necessary and true? Am I sharing the love and grace of Jesus or getting my point across? Before you hesitate to join together with others (not only believers) but the sharing of your life with others, remember Jesus is all you need to be a good host or hostess. He has provided all you need to meet together, fellowship and enjoy the company of others. Use every opportunity to have a pop-up party – I am a type A personality kind of planner. I begin the process months in advance. To have an impromptu gathering is outside of my comfort zone, but it is exactly the kind of ministry I am called to. I wonder if we consider our attitude and actions in each invitation or interaction with the community according to Christ what might happen in the church of the Living God.

Finally, I am to be a Light in this world. Like a city on a hill drawing others to Christ, those drawn to the Light will do so in love and their message will be heard by soft hearts safely in a relationship. We must learn to consider our community and incorporate it in our life. We should spur others to love not offense. Just because you interpret God’s Word one way does not mean others will do the same and it doesn’t mean that you are always right. The only thing that you can’t go wrong with is unconditional love and overflowing grace – the qualities of Jesus Christ – the example for the church. Religions dictates our life. Relationship decides to love with our life. Each person lives by a standard. Ultimately, Christ is our standard. We make the choice each day. We are called to build a Kingdom. We are mandated to encourage one another. The Body of Christ is broken and maybe if we consider community first – it will come together as one.

Romans 12:3-5 (NIV)  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

 

Strong Together

strong together

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Have you ever seen a water buffalo? The water buffalo or Asian buffalo is the largest member of the Bovini tribe which also includes yak, bison, African buffalo and other species of wild cattle. The do not appear to pose a threat. These mammals can be domesticated and are sometimes referred to as living tractors. Moving quite slowly, predators often seek them out as easy prey. Water buffalo are not of the utmost intelligence and can be outsmarted quite easily. However, if you mess with one of the herd, they gather together and fight the attacker no matter the foe. They begin to charge together to take back an animal being carried off by a predator. No one would ever suspect that a wild bovine would be so aggressive but do not make the mistake of messing with one of their own. We must follow their lead. Being mindful that the vulnerable and weak are the first to be led to the slaughter. With diligence, it is of the utmost importance to seek one to become two. Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to find the one. To one another rather than tearing each other down. We must be helpers, not hurters. Two can defend themselves because now they have agreement. Finally, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Not three strands floating in the breeze but three strands woven into a cord. Relationship weaves our life together. It makes us aware by close proximity. As the Body of Christ, we must learn to live as a Kingdom. It is important to win the war waged against us. We have victory in Jesus. We claim it together as one.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The Lord has given us His Armor that covers us from head to foot. We have the belt to truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, and our fitted firmly fitted with the Gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:14-18) This passage begins with “be strong in the Lord and in His Mighty Power.” You are not defenseless in this struggle against powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil. All those coincidences, circumstances, situations, bad reports, and rough patches collectively are the enemy’s attack as God’s People. You. The Body of Christ. The strength of a unity is unity. The determination to collectively advance as a group rather than individually gives power to presence. Just a fish travel in schools for protection, it is of the utmost importance that the family of God decide to work together, weave relationships and war against the enemy together.

It is of the utmost importance that while donning the Armor of God that we do not forget the Assembly of God – we must fight for our faith together. This time of fasting and praying is targeting unity in our church body. Asking God for one mind, one heart and one purpose thrills our Father. Who doesn’t want a close knit family? One a person becomes a people it has a miraculous impact on the community. God desires harmony amongst His People. It blesses him. So naturally pleasing God perturbs the enemy and sets off an alarm in the realm of darkness. We must be aware of this and work to build an even stronger bond together. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12)

Matthew 24:6-8 (NIV) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4) The motto of the military is “no man left behind.” As good soldiers of Jesus Christ fighting for faith and building a Kingdom, it must ours as well. The birth pains of the Kingdom are clear and the pressure real. In order to endure to the end, we must be Kingdom minded and King focused. We cannot become entangled in civilian affairs.

Reading Psalm 23, the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Doesn’t that mean there will be battles? If he prepares a table, it would imply that it is not His Will or Purpose for us to fight alone? We are called to greater love. The kind of love that lays down its own life for others. To unite, bond and form a unit to become the Body of Christ and ultimately His Bride. How are we doing? Are we working together? Are we warring as one? One mind. One body. One heart. One purpose. Collectively joined by One Spirit. We have a mission. Time is of the essence. It is time to stop worrying about all the rumors and rumblings in the earth and set forth an initiative of unity among all people in the Love of God through Jesus Christ.

John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Proverbs 17:7 (NIV) A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Friendship is important but brotherhood essential. We are the Kingdom of God. Working together and warring as one for our family. The family of God is not defined by race, color, gender, or even religion. Jesus died for all of us. No one is exempt from His Mercy, Grace and Unconditional Love. People limit love not God who is love. It is with this in mind that we must decide to forgo pride and preference to bind together as the Body of Christ. It is the greatest form of love to lay down our life, needs, wants, desires, hurts, and offenses to love someone else. It is of even greater importance that we love our enemies. People are not the problem. God loves them what gives us the right to refuse them? A friend loves at all times. Brothers and sisters are born for a time of adversity. God gave us each other so that when going into battle that we would not fight alone. Are we utilizing unity as the Lord intended?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The Kingdom of God uses relationship, agreement, unity and harmony to defeat the enemy. We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. It is the common thread in our life that weaves us together as one Body. We must grab hold of the rope and never let go of the importance in togetherness and relationship. The Armor of God is most effective when working collectively for the Body of Christ as a whole. You need your friends and enemies more than you think. When there is agreement in faith and confident hope – we become unstoppable for the Kingdom of God. We win! We are victorious in Jesus Christ – together!

Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Power of Agreement

Power of Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philippians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

How many churches have you attended in your lifetime? Can you count the number of places you have attended? I posted something on social media. A friend liked the post. Another friend inquired how the person knew me. We had attended church together many years ago. I have had this happen more than a few times. I do it myself. I have a high school friend who teaches another friend’s children. The Body of Christ is to be just that a living, breathing, working, communicating complete unit. It seems like just when a ministry is growing and strengthening into a fully functioning body something happens and it falls apart. It is time to out the enemy and his assault against unity to become the Body of Christ – a strong source to be reckoned with in the world today.

After years of tearing apart Christians, how ironic that Paul would give the rest of his life after coming to Jesus Christ to rebuild the ruins of wreckage left behind. In an almost pleading fashion, He says, “If there is any consolation (comfort, solace) in Christ…if there is any comfort in His Love…if there is any fellowship in His Spirit…if there is any affection or mercy for one another…fulfill my joy…do it for me if no one else…be like-minded…have the same love…be of one accord…be of one mind.” (paraphrased) The tone reminds me of trying to deal with our teenagers. We teach, instruct, discipline, and finally exasperated in effort plead with them.

It’s funny how families work together. Dysfunction is a key trait in families. Our children fuss, fight, pick and disagree on just about everything UNTIL someone dares mess with a sibling. Suddenly there is complete agreement that that person is about to get hurt as they rally together. The church isn’t much different. Rather than walking in love and commitment together, it only happens in the midst of opposition or tragedy. God desires unity in the Body of Christ. He purposed it for us. Jesus even prayed for us to be one. The Holy Spirit identifies us as one family. How do we overcome the natural sense of family to become one as God’s Family? To stop fussing and fighting all the time and begin to function as Christ intended. It may be harder than you think.

Genesis 11:4-6 (NKJV) And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 

After the flood, Noah and his family replenished the people of the earth. The whole earth had one language and one speech. Unity. They decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. “Let us make a name for ourselves. Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Self-preservation and pride decided to make a “name” for itself. The Lord came down to see the city and tower. Immediately, He interrupted the building of such idolatry by confusing their language and ability to communicate ending the unity and stopping their downfall. I wonder sometimes if church communities built on the wrong foundation fall apart for the same reason. False prophets who create a community built on foundations other than faith in God’s Word and an introduction to Jesus Christ.

The point of opportunity in this passage and promise rising from another’s misguidance is that when people become one “nothing they propose will be withheld from them”. The power of agreement works naturally and spiritually. Natural agreement produces favorable results in the world. Supernatural agreement builds a Kingdom. It creates a living, breathing body that will become the Bride who Christ is coming for. We have a long way to go!

Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The early church set the precedent of fellowship. Thinking of fellowship today, I smell fried chicken and a desert table piled high on a special day at church. In the South, there is homecoming or maybe it’s a “Friends and Family Day” to invite or entice new members. This is not the concept set forth in the New Testament. The church broke bread together and prayed together daily. Every day. Not Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Not small groups. Not via texting. No, every single day. The word “fellowship” or koinonia means sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society or contributory help. Every member was a valuable asset to the group. They sold all their possessions and goods dividing up the proceeds evenly among everyone and giving to those in need. They lived in one accord. The early followers who were baptized by the Holy Spirit literally devoted their whole life to unity with God and each other.

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

This was the prayer of Jesus Christ for all of us just before going to the Cross. He desired that those who will believe in Him through the message of the disciples and apostles “that they all may be one” like Jesus and God are one. To abide in love and fellowship together in one accord. One heart. One mind. One body. How are we doing?

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

I wonder if the Lord allows confusion and discord to set in to the church so it doesn’t become built of pride and self-preservation. Is it possible that it is the heart of His People causing the issue and not the enemy to blame? Pride is a human trait overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the spiritual fruit that feeds our soul. As our soul prospers, it overflows those same gifts and characteristics into our natural life. We must live lowly and gently lives. Patient. Bearing one another with love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit who binds us together in peace. There is one body. There is one Spirit. In 2016, there were estimated to be over 300,000 Christian churches in America. Where is the impact and influence of such mass numbers?

We have been called together in one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in us all. We must work on the Body before we take on the world. What is lacking?

Philippians 2:3-5 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about us united with Christ in full fellowship together according to His Spirit. It is not about building new buildings and erecting new walls – physically, structurally, emotionally, congregationally, or corporately. It is about tearing down every barrier between us and God and everyone else. God doesn’t desire one person over another. Our God doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all. His Love is for us all. His Kingdom has a place for us all. His Body has a function specifically for us and no one else. We cannot fulfill our purpose without the other members of the Body no more than my hand can function apart from my arm if detached from my body. We must learn to live in fellowship. We must figure out how it all works. We must strive to live in harmony and unity with all mankind. It is the Will of God for us and the Way to the Father’s Heart. It is to achieve the Mind of Christ.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

 

 

It Matters

It Matters

Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

I used to work with someone who professed vehemently to be a Christian. In theory, the confession was absolutely true. This person would tell others that God was in control… which He is. Serving in church attending all the services and sharing the experience. Feeding the soul with the Word and good teachers – conversationally this person was living the life. However, at work this person was not a faithful employee. Arriving late, leaving early, not coming at all, and when in the office doing others things. Poor performance and inconsistent contribution forced the company to eliminate the position due to the tremendous weight on the company. The employer was extra patient and completely understanding until it took a terrible toll on his business. Seeds sown for life now have left nasty weeds for others to uproot and plant good seed in its place. It matters. Life matters. What I say as a believer is not nearly as important as how I live? To live for Jesus Christ is to put my feelings, emotions and bad habits in check to represent the One I serve appropriately and faithfully. It begins in real life doing ordinary things as though I was serving my extraordinary God.

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ.” This is the very reason why it is important that our life line up with our conversation. The Lord has given us the opportunity to live a new life as a new creation. I must set my sights on the “realities” of heaven. Let’s pause right there for a moment. Reality is important. It is resemblance of what is real. It is take the tiny seed called faith and plant it in every area of our existence until the life I live is based on heavenly concepts rather than worldly conformity. It would be easier if given a full heart transplant when coming to Christ but the truth of the matter is that the Lord did not come to you, call you and confirm you so that He could change you into someone else. You were born with the potential of God in you and eternity in your heart along with a measure of faith so that when the time came to pull it all together – you had everything needed. Coming to Christ, just activated God’s Plan and set the wheels in motion. He loves you. He made you. He have given you vast potential and called you to greater purpose. So how you live each day matters when it comes to God’s Process at work within you!

The reality of heaven is realized when Jesus Christ lives in us. To acknowledge Jesus is to recognize that our life is no longer bound by sin and grave. There is now more to live than this for those who desire and choose to live it. It is a conscious choice made every day to give up my way and follow Jesus.

Colossians 3:11 (NLT) In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Christ is all that matters…and He lives in all of us. Rather than dissecting and scrutinizing each other, what we believe and how we serve…what if…just for today…just for this moment, one considered the fact that the Lord has called us to one mind, one body, one heart and one purpose. This would mean that how I live my life directly impacts other people whether I know it or not. The things that I do each day reach someone. As the Light of the world by calling, others look to us for answers for practical life. My sights are set on heaven. I want to be with the Lord one day. How am I treating His Body? We are the Body of Christ. Jesus died for everyone not just one but all. This means that even those who do not believe – I am accountable to treat with respect. Why? Because my interaction with the Body should always represent the Christ in me and not the me He lives in. Let me take this home for a moment. When someone comes into our church, not my church but the one that each of us call home, how are they received? Is there condemnation as their appearance relays their choices? Are we judgmental? Are we fake? Do we ignore them? How do we receive them? Is it like the Father welcoming the prodigal son? See that is how Jesus would do it – He would run to them, wrap His Arms around them, genuinely receive them, welcome them, and love them in that moment not when they cleaned up nicely and fit our religious routine and could speak fluent Christianese. We are the Body of Christ. Even that homeless man speaking to unseen facing and caring on quiet a debate. Jesus loves him. He died for him. He desires Him. God has no favorites. It matters how we live our life when it comes to other people.

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Can I be transparent today? It is hard to live out the Gospel when it comes to people sometimes. Seventy times seven is a lot when you are the one who has to forgive and forget. We cannot forgive without forgetting and be like the Lord. He puts our sin in a sea of forgetfulness and justifies us just as if we never sinned. Can you say the same? I can’t and still be truthful. People can be downright difficult. BUT…since God chose (me) to be the holy (person) who He loves… I must clothe (myself) with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Ugh! As if that is not enough, I must make allowances for faults and forgive ANYONE who offends me. In the South, it might be called even those who hurt my feelings. I must forgive like Christ forgave me. He did away with a lot of junk and mess that’s for sure. Above all. Clothe yourselves with love. Walk around in it every day. It must be the filter through which every emotion, attitude and action goes through before it reaches another. I must be a lover. I must love all people. This will most definitely influence the choices I make and how I live because it matters. I am not representing myself any longer but the Christ who lives in me. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

Colossians 3:22-24 (NLT) Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

It matters how we live and represent the Lord not only in the midst of our congregation but especially in our everyday life. The daily interactions with others as our character is revealed. Each day is the opportunity to be the Light for someone else but it requires strict attention not to others, how they live, what they do or even what they say. People have no influence over my purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are my purpose in the Lord. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. This must be the reality of my life.

Work willingly at whatever you do as though you are working for the Lord rather than people. Think about the tasks on your to do list. The places you will go today. The things that you are planning to do. There is no better representation of Jesus Christ then to do it all wholeheartedly as if working for Him and to love everyone in the process. Your pay grade doesn’t matter. The people you work with do not control your destiny. You will be rewarded abundantly for every seed sown in love and faithfulness. The Word of God tells us that as long as the earth remains – there will be seedtime and harvest. Those who live in drought and famine must carefully evaluate the seeds being planted in their field called life. Grumbling and complaining just grows into bitterness. Unforgiveness creates a wall that love cannot find its way around. Discontentment lead to discouragement but hope never will take you there. God has something far better for us hidden in Heaven and He promises His Goodness is for us in the land of the living. I do not pursue the Hand of God but rather His Heart so I must live according to what is found there – love, grace and mercy that gives way to faithfulness and obedience in all things. A diversified life is at risk. To fully invest my life in the Kingdom and have its reward requires a wholehearted effort to live, move, breathe and exist in Christ while I live this life. It matters. It all matters. Do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.

I Corinthians 15:58 (NLT) So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

The greatest ministry in life is not found in a position at the local church. It is not given the title of pastor, preacher, teacher or apostle. The greatest ministry is the life of worship lived by men and women who commit each day to work enthusiastically for the Lord in all things. To erase the line drawn between life and ministry. To decide that Heaven came exist on the earth and work diligently to make it so. It all begins by believing in the reality of Jesus Christ. He has flooded the earth with gracious, overwhelming, overflowing and unconditional love that is in us. We must decide to make it the reality of our life and decide each day matters to the Kingdom. Jesus set us free to live the life of our choosing but He clearly shows us the life that He desires for us and the promises that come with it. I want that life. To live a life that matters.

Ephesians 6:7-8 (NLT)  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.